First round China Studies seed-funding research grant

Successful applicants

Dr Ashley Franks (Lead CI), Eleanor Egidi and Wuxing Liu: Working Together: Fungal-plant Interactions for Improved Removal of Hydrocarbon Contamination from Soils

Research Project Summary

Remediating polluted soils is an impelling priority for many industrialised countries, including China and Australia. To meet this demand, new innovative ideas and methods are required. In collaboration with the Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing China, La Trobe University’s Applied and Environmental Microbiology Laboratory will investigate the structure and functional abilities of the hydrocarbon-degrading microbial community associated with contaminant-tolerant grasses. These interactions can be utilised to improve the removal of contaminants from soils by balancing naturally occurring microbes and with native grasses in an environmentally sustainable manor. This study will provide new insights for developing an efficient and environmental-friendly alternative for Chinese and Australian contaminated soils remediation using plants and their associated microorganisms.

Associate Professor James Leibold (Lead CI) and Dr Yangbin Chen: China Pivots West: Ethnic Contact & Conflict Along the New Silk Road

Research Project Summary

This project interrogates the tension (both physical and discursive) between interethnic contact and conflict along the eastern corridor of China’s “Silk Road Economic Belt” – a rugged and remote hinterland comprising 1/4 of Chinese territory. It will assemble a multidisciplinary team of international experts and Australia-based to explore how elements of ethnic, religious, cultural, and ecological diversity complicate statist narratives and projects in China, while analysing their implications for human security in the world’s largest nation-state. This application seeks funding for the first phase of this project: an international symposium at La Trobe, which in turn will lead to the following outcomes: 1) an iTunes U digital master-class on the eastern corridor of the New Silk Road; 2) a series of SSCI journal special issues on specific sub-themes related to interethnic contact and conflict; and 3) a research grant application to fund the second phase of this project.

Dr Lisa Tam (Lead CI), Dr. Chen Lyu, Dr. Soojin Kim, Dr. Jeong-Nam Kim: Gao Guanxi in China: A Model of Relational Public Diplomacy

Research Project Summary

Relational public diplomacy is a relationship (“guanxi”)-centered approach to reaching long-term goals in international relations – a country’s positive relationships with foreign publics could generate support for its foreign policies. The Chinese culture has been identified as being relations-oriented and values relationship cultivation (“gao guanxi”) for advancing organisation-public relationships. In response to calls for more empirical research on relationships in public diplomacy, this study advances the study of guanxi from the organisational level to the country level. In the context of relations-oriented China, this study examines how multilevel relationships (i.e., individual, organisational, country and international) contribute to Chinese publics’ overall relationship with a foreign country and explores the possible associations between relationships and supportive behaviours. With empirical data from China, this study proposes and tests a model to help public diplomats understand what constitutes guanxi in the Chinese context and how to best invest resources into building long-term relationships with Chinese publics.

Dr Nadia Rhook (Lead CI): Touched beyond Herbs: Chinese Medical Practice in Victoria, 1850-1900

Research Project Summary

The history of medicine in Australia has often been imagined as the exclusive domain of British and Australian-born white men. From the 1850s gold rushes, however, Chinese practitioners were part of the daily fabric of health and medical practice, and remained so even after the 1901 institution of the White Australia Policy effectively limited Chinese immigration. This research will challenge historic and contemporary stereotypes about Chinese doctors as ‘quack’ herbalists. Drawing on local stories from across Victoria, and thinking through and beyond the herbal, it aims to uncover new historical understandings about the role of Chinese practitioners. It will survey the activities of Chinese practitioners in the urban and regional centres of Melbourne, Bendigo, Ballarat and Ararat, from the mid to late 19th century. Doing so, it will identify ways in which European settlers and medical practitioners interacted with, contested, and benefited from, Chinese medical practice and knowledge.